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Shared ethnography of shared cities

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Abstract

This paper aims to foreground issues for design ethnographers working in urban contexts within the smart-city discourse. It highlights ethnography’s role in a shared urban future by exploring how ethnographers might pave the way for envisioning digital infrastructure at the core of Smart City programs. This paper begins by asking whether urban development practitioners can design for inclusive interaction with Smart Urban Infrastructure. The research suggests how ethnographers can work with ‘cities’ to rapidly develop diagnostic tools and capture insights that inform design processes with both utility and inclusive interaction as their key values. This involves rethinking how we consider places where space and information intersect. This work led to developing rapid means to assay a site and sensitize to contextual issues by tapping into heuristic expertise innate in city dwellers. This means doing ethnography in parallel with publics as opposed to performing ethnography ‘on’ them. Hence we discuss a fresh ethnographic perspective that can be especially useful in this context; shared ethnography.